what happens to microplastics and chemicals leaching from plastics and other products derived from fossil fuels once they’re in landfills

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I understand intuitively that once plastics and other products derived from fossil fuels are put into land fills, they begin to – albeit slowly – break down. But what happens once they leach into the soil?

Presumably they just stay in the surrounding soil and continue to break down slowly? They’re likely then metabolized (if possible) by plants?

But if the basic molecular components aren’t metabolizable, what happens? These chemicals and microplastics just…remains in the soil?

Are soils in the vicinity of land fills just toxic, barren wastelands? Anything that isn’t washed away and ending up in the ocean just hangs out in the soil for centuries?

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2 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

That’s the issue with plastic. It doesn’t degrade. Only recently (on the scientific timeline) did an organism evolve to break down plastic. Without them, plastic never fully degrades, it just breaks apart into smaller pieces. Even with them the process is slow. Scientists are trying to speed up the evolution and make them more efficient.

There was a time before wood could rot, and fallen trees just stayed on the ground for years and years and years.

The soil around landfills isn’t entirely barren. Plants can be quite stubborn. But it’s likely unsuitable for farming and things like that.

Anonymous 0 Comments

That’s the issue with plastic. It doesn’t degrade. Only recently (on the scientific timeline) did an organism evolve to break down plastic. Without them, plastic never fully degrades, it just breaks apart into smaller pieces. Even with them the process is slow. Scientists are trying to speed up the evolution and make them more efficient.

There was a time before wood could rot, and fallen trees just stayed on the ground for years and years and years.

The soil around landfills isn’t entirely barren. Plants can be quite stubborn. But it’s likely unsuitable for farming and things like that.